About twenty years ago, Dr. Ed Stetzer and I worked on a church plant on the east side of Louisville, Kentucky. As the planning progressed, Ed asked me what we should name the church. I suggested Eastside Baptist Tabernacle. He rejected that immediately, and I believe he settled on River Oaks Community Church. The church plant failed because the church planter left after six months. When we evaluated the project, I told Ed it failed because he rejected the name I suggested.
From time to time the discussion arises about whether a Southern Baptist church should include Baptist in its name. In the old days, when William Thornton and I were young, there was no question. All SBC churches used Baptist in their names. For sure, those days are long gone. Still, some believe we should use “Baptist.” I’ve heard SBC leaders express strong opinions about this.
When I taught church planting at Southern Baptist Seminary, I told my students to use “Baptist” if it was an advantage and to not use it if it was a disadvantage. The experience of some of my seminary students prompted that teaching. One summer, I sent two of my students to help with a church planting project north of Detroit in Novi, Michigan. Part of their duties was to survey people in the community. They asked several questions of the residents, including one about the name “Baptist.” They found that most of the residents of Novi had a negative opinion of Baptists, viewing Baptists as harsh, negative, and legalistic. My students recommended that the new church leave “Baptist” out of its name.
Of course, many SBC churches have changed their names. First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas (where Ronny Floyd was pastor) changed its name to Cross Church. First Baptist Church of Franklin, Tennessee, became People’s Church.
Today, it is difficult to discern the denomination of a church, or even if it belongs to a denomination. Several months ago, my wife and I drove to Rockwall, Texas. We passed a big church called Lakeshore Church. The facility really impressed me, and I wondered about it. It took some research on the internet to discover that it is an Assembly of God congregation. Of course, the same could be said of several new churches in our area. They are Southern Baptists, but you would have to make careful inquiry to learn that.
Well, Voices readers, what do you say about the name of an SBC church? Should it have Baptist in the name?